This week, I respond to Charli Mills' invitation to answer the question: Why do I write?
As the summer winds down and another new school year nears, I feel the shakes begin. My summer morning break of dawn habit is about to die out, hibernate for another 9 months, lurk and twist beneath my itching derma. My writing habit must quiet and slow.
It's not how I want it; it's how it must be. I will certainly try to wake a half hour earlier, in the predawn darkness of my warm bed, slither out onto the floor and feel in the blackness for my one-eyed blinking laptop. Some days will merit worth, others will succumb to the nurturing folds of that maternal duvet.
I write because it is my soul's path.
Back in the 70s when I was a school girl, I'd lay across my bedroom floor's pink shag carpet and scribble out verses and stories and diary entries. Any school assignment that required writing, I could do it in my sleep. (Math lessons left me in fits of tears at my father's feet.)
I write because it fills my being with joy.
As that same girl, I would also spend summers in the pool. When not in the pool, I'd be on my bike pedaling to the library. Reading filled my imagination, connected me to worlds I hadn't encountered, drew me into lives of wonder. Fueled by the ideas of Judy Blume, E.B.White, Roald Dahl, I soon found myself bursting with my own tales to pen. When my English teachers encouraged my work, there was no stopping me.
I write because it helps me make sense of a senseless world.
Navigating through adolescence is never easy. It's the theme of most of my books. Again, my path cleared with the help of writers: Austen, Salinger, Lee, and the Bronte sisters. I soon understood that writers had a greater purpose. Writers help us find connections to ourselves and others. They provide us with a foundation when the ground beneath us is cracking. Writers open us up to worlds unknown and offer personal portals to the very confusing world we live in.
I write for the same reasons that I breathe. Without it, I'd cease to be.
I'd like to introduce you to three other writers whose pen has touched my heart. Please visit them. I'd love to hear your comments, too. Why do you write?
Natalie Corbett Sampson Natalie Corbett Sampson lives in Hatchet Lake, Nova Scotia with her husband, four school-aged Munsters and a menagerie of pets. Her day job is a speech language pathologist where she loves helping children improve their ability to communicate with the world around them. When she’s not working, writing or sitting in a hockey rink Natalie loves reading, photography and drawing. You can learn more about Natalie and follow her publishing journey on her blog: www.NatalieCorbettSampson.com.
Ruben Castaneda is a Los Angeles native and former award-winning journalist for the Washington Post. His first book, "S Street Rising", chronicles his time covering the 1980s and 90s crack epidemic in our nation's capital while battling his own addiction with the drug. Ruben mentored me on the Los Angeles Herald Examiner where we covered the outbreak of gang violence and innocent victims caught in the crossfire.
Samantha Williams's first novel is due out later this year. She is the co-founder of PageCurl Publishing, a group of writers who publish and promote indie writers.
As a kid, I loved hanging out with my dad at his workbench. I marveled at his array of hammers, screwdrivers and odd curvy things hanging on his wall. It seemed he had a tool for just about everything. He told me how important it was to have the right tools in your toolkit.
He was right then, and he's still right. Toolkits aren't just for carpenters and weekend tinkerers. When you think about it, every profession has a tool kit. So what are the essentials in a writer's tool kit?
Well, it must contain the necessary tools of your trade, items to get started, smooth the rough edges, and polish it off for show. Whether you are a novice author just getting started on your first story or you are a seasoned writer looking to hone your craft, you need to clean out your tool box. Here are my 5 tool kit essentials:
1. A writing space - a desk, park bench, beach chair and sand, a corner in the library. Where doesn't matter as much once you get going; but it is essential to find a spot where you aren't distracted and where you feel inspired.
2. Something to write on and with - laptop, notebook and pens, old fashioned typewriter. Again, what's important here is that the items you use to write with feel natural to you. For me, it's my laptop. However, I always carry something with me for inspirational moments (see #4).
3. Writing conventions resources - Strunk & White's ELEMENTS of STYLE (I have 4 copies tucked everywhere); at least one stylebook (LA Times, Chicago, AP); a thick thesaurus and dictionary. Yes, your wordprocessing resources do this trick, too; but you really need hard copies around. What if the electricity goes out and you need a good synonym for 'evil'?
4. Emergency supplies - As I mentioned in #2, you never know when inspiration strikes. Always keep a few small notebooks and pens stashed everywhere you spend time (the car, work, your purse or backpack, your bedside). I have notes written all over, and even if I don't go back to use them, just having written them down helps me work out my ideas. For you smartphone and ipad users, you might prefer the Novel Idea.
5. A paperback writing coach - Literally. There are numerous great books out there by established writers. These books can serve as your writing coach.. Buy one or more by different authors. Read them over and over. Write in their margins. Highlight, underline, circle! They want you to learn from their mistakes and benefit from their epiphanies. My favorite - ON WRITING by Stephen King. Find yours.
That's it. Gather your tools, and start writing! Good luck!
*This post first appeared April 2014 (I thought it deserved another viewing while I finish my summer break - see you next week!)
Since we last met, I have written 23,000 words, completed my third YA, and am revising and crying while preparing to meet with an editor this week. That's all in the last seven days. Now, I don't attribute it all to this delightful app, but I might extend to it half the credit. Yes, you heard me, Scrivener and I are tight, 50/50, that's us.
Let me tell you why.
Did you know that a scrivener is someone who writes for illiterate folk? That makes me laugh. I'm afraid it's mostly true. Scrivener has embedded its little multinational soul inside my head, snuggled in deep, massaging and word-smithing my tired literary brain. Although this darling scribe was birthed by Literature & Latte Ltd. less than ten years ago, it remains far wiser than me.
At most times.
But rather than give away all my power to a software program, I have developed a symbiotic relationship. I pour my heart and soul onto its stark white editor's body; it offers outlines and corkboards, character sketches and document storage ideas.
I continue to peruse the universe for its human form as I must admit I find Scrivener quite sexy, but that is between me and my therapist. For you, a share of VIEWS from my WIP (which I mentioned above reached its final chapter).
In Scrivener, you have, essentially, three choices in which to work. Document. Outline. Corkboard.
Last week, I discussed the dreamy Composition Mode you might use when in DOCUMENT. That's your main writing mode on a plain white scrolling background. Again, I recommend you enter Composition Mode when in Document view.
(NOTE: when you click on your entire manuscript in DOCUMENT mode, you can enter SCRIVENINGS mode and scroll through all chapters at once.)
If you want to view your plot structure 'at a glance,' take the time to enter a synopsis for each chapter. This makes OUTLINE mode a great place to check the seams of your subplots. You can also complete other items in the Inspector, which include synopses, word counts, and custom meta data.
CORKBOARD is another 'at a glance' view of your work in progress. However, here, you can post other notes, character ideas, keywords, pictures, etc. You can see my CORKBOARD view while I've clicked on the Characters list from the Binder. I added photos swiped from the Internet, so I could visualize my characters in real life. (Thank you, lovely actors and actresses for feeding my imagination.)
I won't go into more detail here, as I believe the Scrivener tutorials tell it best. As I assured one writer, yes, definitely spend time on the tutorial. It's worth it.
Please share your aha's here with Scrivener or other tools that aide us in producing our best work possible.
Read, Rinse. Repeat. My new Scrivener motto. After completing the first 8 tutorial steps last week, I decided to take another look.
Learning a new language takes time, and technology is definitely a foreign language. Each program, app, piece of hardware has its own lingo. It’s clear to me that I might never be Scrivener perfect, but I will improve with use. Perfection takes practice. My online friends agree:
Author Robert Bryndza said: “One thing I love about Scrivener is the way you can turn your project into any kind of file using just a few clicks, Word doc, PDF, EPUB and Mobi.”
Writer Chrissy Munder wanted to scrap the app at first, then: “The best thing I came across (note: I am not in any way an affiliate) was http://learnscrivenerfast.com/. I can't say enough good things about this program or the way it helped me get right into using the program.”
Here are 3 take-away’s from this week’s studies:
1. Where’d you go, Word Count? - while reading about “Footer View” (something I’d glossed over quickly at first, thinking it was useless extra stuff), I discovered I’d lost the Word Counter. But Mr. Scrivener knew that might happen. A few paragraphs in, I came across a NOTE suggesting that if one’s Word Counter disappeared, consider checking if you switched the Editor into Screenwriting Mode. And, uh, yeah, that was I.
2. I really dig that Composition Mode – click on the “compose” button up top, and it’s just you and your document in space (where no one can hear you scream, writhing in writersblockitis).
3. Weak at the knees for the Inspector - another favorite, The Inspector. (Although every time I read the word “inspector” I envision Matthew Broderick in a trench coat.) The Inspector is the set of collapsible folders to the right of the main Editor (where you write). The “Synopsis” allows you to save grabbed or typed text so you know in a blink what’s in that document’s section. However, my utter fave is the STATUS drop menu in the “General” folder there. Add any title here to categorize the stages of your work - “To Do”, “Final Draft”. I’ve already created “Yikes – need help!”.
Stay tuned for more insights with Scrivener next week. We’ll have some fun with that sexy Corkboard View.
Please consider sharing your experiences, perceptions and questions here.